Few people would have begrudged Cody Garbrandt if the former UFC bantamweight champion declined to speak to the media after his UFC 217 title loss to T.J. Dillashaw. Not only did Garbrandt drop his belt to one of his fiercest rivals, but the setback also marked the first loss of Garbrandt’s professional fighting career.
But regardless, there Garbrandt was after UFC 217, a willing participant at the event’s post-fight press conference, speaking candidly about the worst night of his career mere hours after losing to Dillashaw. And for Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber, who mentored Garbrandt throughout his rise to the top of the bantamweight division, the way “No Love” reacted to the first major adversity of his run portended good things about the 26-year-old’s future.
“I was really, really impressed,” Faber said recently on The MMA Hour.
“He was just in a great place after [UFC 217], which is a hard thing to do. We know that it’s somewhere that he’s been before. As a competitor, he’s been a wrestler since he was four years old and he’s been a boxer since he was like nine or 10 years old. It’s not like you don’t experience losses, so it’s not something unfamiliar. It’s just unfortunate because there was so much on the line, there was so much build-up for that one and such a storyline, so it adds a little more to the loss. But at the end of the day, this is the fight game, and you’re looking at two of the best to do it, really.”
Despite what the record books may show, UFC 217 was not the first time Garbrandt and Dillashaw locked horns. The two used to be training partners at Team Alpha Male prior to Dillashaw’s split from the team in 2015. During that time, they sparred often. Footage of one of those sparring sessions was even released as a pre-fight salvo by Garbrandt, who long claimed the existence of a tape that showed him knocking out Dillashaw in the gym.
The reality of that claim ended up being far more dubious — footage showed Garbrandt knocking down Dillashaw, but definitely not knocking him out. But either way, Faber doesn’t believe the familiarity between the two played a big part in Garbrandt losing his title at UFC 217.
“I don’t think it has to do with them training together necessarily, because in all honesty, Cody, even back in the day, was competitive right from the first day he stepped in our room,” Faber said. “But you really are looking at two of the best fighters on the planet in that weight class, undoubtedly, and we knew that. So when you have two of the best fighters going, being undefeated is a hard thing to do. I was 8-0 before I lost my first fight. I think Chad (Mendes) was maybe 10-0. I can’t remember how many fights T.J. had, he was something like that as well. But it’s a difficult thing to be unblemished when you’re going against the best fighters in the world, and in my opinion, Cody was having an incredible first round.
“It was unfortunate for us, but congrats to T.J.”
Garbrandt’s loss signaled an end, at least for now, to the long-running feud between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male — a feud that had somewhat overtaken the lives of all involved for the better part of two years.
As time went on, tensions between the two sides grew quite high, with Dillashaw even being accused of steroid use by multiple members of Team Alpha Male. And while Faber stayed largely in the background in the lead-up to UFC 217, he still holds harsh feelings towards Dillashaw about one main point.
“For me, the only thing that I ever bring up as an issue is the fact of one simple thing: T.J. saying that I kicked him off the team versus him just leaving the team, because that’s a lie, and I don’t like to have people lie about me,” Faber said. “So that’s the one thing that I stand to keep true. That’s the thing that bothered me about the whole situation. We could’ve been fine friends and just gone on, had he not tried to switch the roles and say it how it wasn’t. So that’s the only thing.
“And as far as Cody saying the steroid thing, et cetera, these are conversations that — and I’ve heard conversations that have been gone on within the team that I wasn’t a part of, so I can’t say my thing about it. If you guys want to know the details of what Cody’s talking about, you have to get that from him, because I was kinda like the patriarch of the team, where, if something shady’s going on, no one will tell me about it. So, I’ve heard some things that made me lose some respect, absolutely, but it’s not my place to say about conversations that were had or things that were said or things that were done when I wasn’t actually there in the know.”
Moving forward, Faber acknowledged that it’s unlikely Garbrandt gets his wish and receives an immediate rematch. Dillashaw is targeting a champion vs. champion superfight against UFC flyweight king Demetrious Johnson, while Garbrandt will likely need to return to the end of a crowded queue at 135 pounds.
But Faber is confident that Garbrandt and Dillashaw will meet again, and when they do, Faber expects the lead-up to be just as stressful as it was for UFC 217.
“The crappy part is, obviously that there’s going to be another build-up with the same type of tension, because it wasn’t fun for me,” Faber said. “I didn’t watch The Ultimate Fighter, I didn’t watch the Countdown stuff. I didn’t watch anything until the two days before, or maybe it was like three days before, when I was out cornering Lance (Palmer at PFL) and couldn’t sleep, so I started watching some of the stuff. But it’s not a fun situation. It’s a bunch of drama.
“I’m hearing a guy that I know for a fact is saying things about me that aren’t necessarily true, so it’s like, hearing this kind of stuff is not a fun situation. It’s going to happen again, absolutely. I think Cody and T.J. are going to fight again, we’re going to have to go through it again. It’s not the funnest build-up, so there’s a little bit to that [making the result worse]. But actually, I think it would have been probably worse had he lost to Cruz, to be honest.”